Ford Duratec 33 Cyclone Tuning

"All you need to know: Performance Mods for the Ford Duratec 33 engine!"

One engine that keeps cropping up in emails and questions we get sent is the Duratec 33, and what modifications work best on it. so we've created this guide which goes over what we feel are the primary areas you should tune and outline which modifications we feel are the best.

This "Baby" of the Duratec family is a good allrounder offering great economy and plenty of torque, but it does suffer from heat build-up when towing higher weight loads. It makes a great basis for the F150 and the Explorer Hybrid tops up the Torque with battery power producing a pretty potent engine.

The Ford Duratec 33 makes a good tuning project and with carefully chosen performance upgrades like ECU maps, turbo upgrades, and camshafts you will maximize your driving fun.

This article looks into Duratec 33 tuning and highlights the optimum mods that work.

The Duratec 33 and 37 Cyclone share many common features, but the larger cylinder bore diameter adds more displacement. The 3.5 Duratec and Duratec 37 share a piston stroke so reboring is a good way to up the displacement on the Duratec 33.

RXC V6 and Ginetta 3.7Ti-VCT both used the Duratec 37 Cyclone for their 350hp engines.

See our video which provides a complete introduction to Ford Tuning, it contains some tips on performance and handling modifications.

History of the Duratec 33 Engine

  • Ford Explorer Hybrid
  • Ford F-150

Both the 33 and 35 engines have twin-independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT) and direct injection (DI) in common mechanical features. The Duratec 33 and Duratec 37 Cyclone also share many common features, but the larger cylinder bore diameter which adds more displacement. The 3.5 Duratec and Duratec 37 share a piston stroke so reboring is a good way to up the displacement on the Duratec 33.

Thankfully the Duratec 33 uses an external water pump so avoids many of the issues the Duratec 35 suffered from in this area.

RXC V6 and Ginetta 3.7Ti-VCT both used the Duratec 37 Cyclone for their 350hp engines.

  • Duratec 33 Ford Cyclone V6 Engine 3.3 L  DOHC V6 2018–present

Tuning the Ford Duratec 33 and best Duratec 33 performance parts.

Best Duratec 33 upgrades

When talking about the greatest modifications for your Duratec 33 engine, we are going to focus on the tuning mods that offer the biggest return for your cash.

Please watch our video which covers the 5 principles of tuning your Duratec 33. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Best mods for your Duratec 33 Cyclone

  1. Mapping - remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost, replacement ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are generally the biggest mechanical mod upgrade, but they must be setup by someone who knows what they are doing they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake Upgrades and Sports Exhausts - Please note that on their own these mods won't ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - A New Turbo is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. Although one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.

Cyclone Tuning Stages

Typical stage 1 mods often include: A sports exhaust manifold, Remaps/piggyback ECU, Panel air filters, Fast road camshaft, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Intake manifolds.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: high flow fuel injectors, Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, Ported and polished head, Fast road cam, induction kit, and fuel pump upgrades.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression, Twin charging conversions, Competition cam, Engine balancing & blueprinting, and Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

Duratec 33 Camshaft Upgrades

Sporty camshaft profiles help you to boost top-end power which makes it the best mod for NASP and turbo petrol engines, but not so much on diesels. Most cars will see top end power benefits through performance camshafts on most engines

The camshaft profile plays a big part in the engine's power output so camshaft upgrades make quite a large difference. The intake & exhaust durations will alter depending on the chosen camshaft profile, so large torque gains are on offer for camshaft upgrades.

Fast road camshafts tend to bump the power across the rev range, you might lose a little bottom end bhp but your top end will improve.

Competition camshafts, bump the top end band but as a result, the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

A Motorsport and race camshaft will just annoy you whilst driving in heavy traffic.

You should ideally match your power band to your preferences so for a road car stick with a shorter duration Duratec 33 camshaft

Some Duratec 33 engines respond differently due to the head and flow characteristics when camshafts are fitted depending on the camshaft being more extreme camshaft durations and cam profile as unique due to manufacturing tolerances and quality variations so check your engine on a rolling road.

The ECU mapping and fuel delivery and fuel pump also have a large bearing on the bhp gains you'll hit.

Longer valve durations can amend the bhp range, and on most engines, there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations and valve lift.

The Duratec 33 units are fantastic to work on and we're pleased to see that there are increasing numbers of parts and tuning parts about.

ECU Mapping Improvements for the Duratec 33 Cyclone

A remap will help release the full potential of all the tuning parts you've installed on your Duratec 33.

(Sometimes flashing the ECU is not an option, so an aftermarket ECU is a route to take, and most of these exceed the specs and performance of your factory ECU but check it has knock protection and that you get it set up properly.) It will usually give around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines, but your results usually differ on the tuning parts you've fitted and the condition of your engine.

Air Intake Mods & Upgrades

It is the main goal of any engine tuning project to pull more air and fuel into the Duratec 33 engine

The intake manifolds take the air during the suck phase from the filter and allow it to be fed into the engine cylinders.

The size of bore and shape and rate of flow of the Intake manifold can make a large difference in fuel atomization and engine efficiency on the Duratec 33.

I usually find intake manifolds are improved through aftermarket parts, although some makers provide fairly well-optimized intake manifolds.

Increasing valve sizes on Duratec 33, doing a bit of port work, and head flowing will also improve bhp and torque, the fantastic side effect is it will permit a better bhp and torque increase on other upgrades.

Turbo upgrades

NA (naturally aspirated) engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your Duratec 33

The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn, and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes superb power gains.

When the engine is turbocharged parts are going to make more power and turbo engines use stronger components.

There are reliable limits for every engine, with some being extremely strong and some only able to handle stock power. We recommend you find these limits and upgrade to forged components to utilize the power.

We see many guys spending a stack of money on turbocharger upgrades on the Duratec 33 only to watch the engine block throw a rod when it's been completed.

Bigger upgraded turbochargers tend to experience a bottom-end lag, and small turbochargers spool up more quickly but don't have the peak-end bhp gains.

Thanks to progress the market of turbochargers is always evolving and we now see variable vane turbochargers, where the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

Twin scroll turbochargers divert the exhaust gases into a couple of channels and direct these at differently designed vanes in the turbocharger. They also boost the scavenging effect of the engine.

You'll commonly see there's a limit in the airflow sensor AFM/MAF on the Duratec 33 when loads more air is being sucked into the engine.

Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor was restricting power at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although more complex to install. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.

Fuelling Upgrades

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will have to look at the fuelling when you start exceeding 20% of a performance increase. Performance fuel pressure regulators can improve throttle response. Most tuners we speak with say to over-specify your injector capacity.

As a rule of thumb add another 20% when fitting an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and allows you some spare capacity should the engine need more fuel.

We think this one is common sense, but you'll need to match your fuel injector to the type of fuel your car uses as well.

Performance Exhausts

You may need to replace your exhaust if your current exhaust is creating a restriction in flow.

On most factory exhausts you'll find the flow rate is still good even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

Sports exhausts can help increase the flow of gases through the engine.

But if your exhaust is too big, ie: it's over 2.5 inches bore, you will lose a lot of the flow rate and end up sapping power and torque.

For road-going cars, mods such as a sports catalyst pretty much remove this restriction, mainly to its the larger size and surface area, and will effectively raise the performance to levels you would expect without having a catalyst installed This keeps the car road legal and will remove the restriction due to it's higher internal surface area and design. The alternative test pipe mod or cat removal should be considered an off-road-only mod, as removing a catalyst is illegal in most territories and regions for road registered cars (and in some, you can't even replace a working catalyst).

Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the Duratec 33

The Duratec 33 engines are generally reliable and solid as long as they are regularly serviced.

Carbon build-up in the head, particularly around the valves will cause flat spots and loss of power, this is a larger issue on direct injection engines but should be looked out for on all engines. We have tips on intake clean to remove carbon build-up To minimize this risk only use quality fuel and don't short journeys.

Regular oil changes are highly recommended on the Duratec 33, and more so when the car is modified and will help maintain the long life of the engine.

If you want to learn more, or just get more pointers on Tuning your Duratec 33 engine please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss Duratec 33 tuning options in more detail with our Duratec 33 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Ford tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to know what our users have got up to and which parts work best for them on each model of car. We use your comments and feedback to improve the accuracy of these Duratec 33 tuning guides which get regular updates and revisions.

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